The long-awaited fate of a contentious business proposal in Merville will be decided next week.
On Monday, June 18, the CVRD’s electoral area services committee will approve or deny a rezoning application for a proposed water bottling business in Merville. The business proposal has garnered backlash throughout the small rural community and media attention on Vancouver Island.
According to the report pertaining to the agenda item, CVRD staff are recommending the committee deny the rezoning application on Monday, based on the negative feedback the proposal has received.
“…staff has received numerous comments from the community. Almost all of the submissions oppose the rezoning application,” reads a portion of the staff report.
Last November, Merville residents Christopher Scott McKenzie and his wife Regula Heynck received a conditional water licence from the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. The water licence allows the family to extract up to 10,000 litres per day of groundwater from their property’s well on Sackville Road. The family has said they would bottle the water in large five-gallon jugs and sell it via home delivery throughout the Comox Valley.
To justify their plans, the family touted the high alkalinity (pH 8.1) of their well water, saying the unique pH balance provides health benefits. McKenzie was also vocal that the community has been fed misinformation about the scope of his proposal.
“People are looking at us like we’re a corporation when really we’re just a cottage business trying to establish revenue for my small family,” said McKenzie, when first defending his operation.
Farmers and other residents in Merville and Area C — and the K’omoks First Nation — disagree. The CVRD’s staff report includes dozens of emails from opposed residents.
Critics claim the extraction of 10,000 litres of groundwater per day would dry up their local aquifer — which local farmers say already experiences droughts in the summers — and that it is unfair for one family to profit from a shared resource. Critics have also claimed the province did not sufficiently consult stakeholders before approving the water licence.
In April, a group called the Merville Water Guardians formed to further protest the idea and organize a letter-writing campaign against it.
FLNRORD minister Scott Donaldson came to the area in March. He said his staff are willing to present data to justify their decision in granting the water licence to McKenzie and Heynck, but cannot do so because of an outstanding appeal, which came from the Merville Water Guardians.
The electoral area services committee will meet Monday at 10 a.m. in the CVRD’s leased boardroom on Comox Road.
If the committee approves McKenzie and Heynck’s rezoning application, it will go to the CVRD board of directors for further approval.